Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Breastfeed My Toddler for the Nutritional Benefits

I Am Mom! Enough! Carnival buttonWelcome to the I Am Mom! Enough! Carnival hosted by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama and Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children.
This Carnival is dedicated to empowering ALL parents who practice and promote and peaceful, loving, attachment parenting philosophy. We have asked other parents to help us show the critics and the naysayers that attachment parenting is beautiful, uplifting, and unbelievably beneficial and NORMAL!
In addition to the Carnival, Joni from Tales of a Kitchen Witch and Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy are co-hosting a Linky Party. Please stop by either blog to share any of your posts on the topic.
Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Post topics are wide and varied, and every one is worth a read.
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Many of my fellow South African readers may be blissfully unaware of the uproar caused by a recent cover of American TIME magazine (for some reason this cover did not grace the edition we receive here).  The first time I heard of the upcoming article on attachment parenting to be featured in TIME magazine was the week before this edition launched. A couple of the mothers in our Natural Parents Network volunteers group on Facebook were contacted to be photographed for the cover. Our own Dionna Ford of Code Name: Mama was one of the four ladies flown to NYC for the photo shoot. See Dionna's beautiful tandem breastfeeding picture on TIME lightbox, she is the lovely model in picture number 3.

Image credit : TIME.com

Shocking right? TIME magazine is in the business of selling magazines and unfortunately they went for the most shocking and most sensationalized shot of 'extended'1 breastfeeding to feature on their cover. To top it, they added the antagonising caption, 'Are you mom enough?' fuelling any mothers self-doubt and adding to the flames of the mommy wars, breastfeeders against formula feeders, 'extended' breastfeeding against early weaning.

Jamie Lynne Grumet of I Am Not The Babysitter is the beautiful mother on the cover. In her response to TIME she shares her disappointment in the chosen shot for the cover (the models had no say, and they were all disappointed in the way attachment parenting was portrayed by the cover and article - read what they had to say in this interview on KellyMom). Jamie explains that this was an awkward in-between shot, while they were getting into more natural and responsive poses. Look how awkward her son looks, and then check out this alternative shot below, where her son had nodded off whilst nursing and in the middle of the shoot, now that's relaxed...


Uproar ensued, with people calling 'extended' breastfeeding child molestation amongst other hateful things. I want to share my disappointment with the angle TIME magazine took. Breastfeeding has taken such a knock with the rise of formula in the 1950's where it was first touted as being better than breastmilk and since then has been a booming multi-billion dollar industry. Now days, we know that NOTHING comes close to the immune boosting nourishment of breastmilk, but did you know that the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the age of 6 months, or later? And that the World Health Organization also recommends breastfeeding until the age of two years, or later! An age where most children have already been weaned for over a year and placed on to a replacement such as formula or cows milk. 

Most mothers are aware that children cannot get the required nourishment out of solid food until they have all of their teeth including molars and can sufficiently chew and so they see the need for their children to get some sort of liquid nourishment. Why oh why would I wean my child off breastmilk to regularly give him cows milk, which is packed with nourishment, yes, but all of it in a usable form for calves not human babies, most humans cannot even digest the stuff - see my article on why you shouldn't be feeding your child dairy here

Formula is an expensive option, laden with chemical additives and nutrients in unnatural form. Formula is fantastic at doing what it is meant to do, keep babies from starving when their mothers are unable to breastfeed for some reason. It should not be a replacement for breastmilk when nursing is still an option.  
I have been asked time and time again, when I will wean my son, he is now 18 months old and still enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding. I have no intention of weaning him any time soon, and will rather wait for him to decide when to wean. This may mean I will still be nursing him at four years old, and indeed I hope too, as the benefits of breastmilk continue as long as it is consumed. 

Breastfeeding a toddler - nursing AND talking on the telephone

In the aftermath of the TIME cover, many many people have been saying that the only benefit of 'extended' breastfeeding is the closeness and bond it induces with mom. Not so, I believe a toddler benefits greatly from the added nutrition. 
A longer duration of breastfeeding has been found to be directly associated with not only fewer infant illnesses, but subsequently, fewer toddler illnesses. (Gulick EE, 1986. The effects of breast-feeding on toddler health.) 
First, breastmilk is the most perfect food. Chock a block full of goodness such as protein, vitamins and minerals and fats are in an easily absorb-able and bio-available form. It also holds beneficial hormones from mother to promote everything from sleep to aiding digestion. There is nothing better for a baby, or toddler!

Lets look what the average order and time period babies usually get their teeth:
  • Four middle incisors start appearing around 6-7 months. 
  • Four more side incisors appear at around 8 months.
  • Four back molars appear at around 10-14 months.
  • Four canines appear at around 16-20 months.
  • Four more back molars appear between 24-30 months. 
According to this average, a child can therefore not chew sufficiently until the age of at least 30 months (2.5 years) I should enforce that this list is an average, Jesse for instance did not get his first tooth until 1 week before his first birthday. He is now 18 months old, and just yesterday I felt his first molar peeking through his gum. I wonder at what age he will have a complete set of baby teeth and therefore be able to chew efficiently?
If food is not chewed sufficiently, there will be digestive difficulty. It has been written in a number of books (such as The Power Eating Program by Lino Stanchich) that chewing is of utmost importance to digestion and assimilation of nutrients. - Creating Healthy Children by Karen Ranzi
It is therefore futile to give a child younger than 2.5 years a complex carbohydrate or complex protein to eat, carbohydrates and proteins need adequate chewing in order to be digested and if not chewed properly, the stomach does not secrete enough acid and then food passes through the gut barely digested causing all sorts of tummy trouble. Ever given your child peas for supper only to change his nappy the next day and find them totally undigested? Peas are one of the most carbohydrate rich vegetables, and need adequate chewing.
Jesse, breastfed and well-nourished
 A baby has an immature digestive tract so feeding a child concentrated protein or starch before he has a full set of teeth and can chew properly is not only a waste of time and money but is likely to cause problems down the line. Food is not broken down properly and so ferments in the stomach producing by-products such as alcohol. Often incompletely broken down food molecules can be absorbed into the blood stream and because they are foreign to the body they result in an antibody reaction which leads to the development of allergies to a variety of foods, e.g. gluten intolerance. - Healthy Kids by Mary-Anne Shearer & Charlotte Meschedes
There is however plenty of food that is easily digestible, and full of nutrients for a toddler in absorb-able form. See for instance my article on the best first food for baby, or my article on protein. Breastmilk is also full of protein.

The natural age of weaning in humans has been predicted to be 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7 years. Do yourself a favour and read Dr Dettwylers research on this topic, it makes for an interesting read which explains much.

Humans have been nursing toddlers for centuries, I recently read (but cannot for the life of me remember where) that during the first world war, the schools in rural England would allow its younger pupils to to go home at tea break in order to nurse (they ranged in age between 5 and 7) as nourishing food was scarce and this prevented them from being malnourished. Also, it helped the mothers to space their babies naturally, as breastfeeding is a natural contraception - I still have not had my period return. I realise we are not at war, and most of us can afford to buy fresh, and organic fruits of veg but even so, the benefits of breastmilk cannot be denied.
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements
– Dewey 2001
I breastfeed my toddler as I am health conscious, and concerned about his nutrition more than anything else. But, even equally important is the benefit to his mental and social development. Jesse is a joyful and confident toddler, and I fully believe it is because he is adequately nourished and parented with love and responsiveness.



1 I put 'extended' in semi-colons as I don't believe nursing a toddler is in any way extended, I believe it is full term breastfeeding to nurse a toddler until he is ready wean himself. 


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Thank you for visiting the I Am Mom! Enough! Carnival hosted by hosted by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama and Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children. Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants and check out previous posts at the linky party hosted by Joni from Tales of a Kitchen Witch and Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 28 with all the carnival links.)
  • Good Enough? — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writes about how Good Enough is not Good Enough, if you use it as an excuse to stop trying.
  • The High Cost of High Expectations JeninCanada at Fat and Not Afraid shares what it's like to NOT feel 'mom enough' and wanting to always do better for herself and family.
  • TIME to Be You! — Becky at Old New Legacy encourages everyone to be true to themselves and live their core values.
  • I am mom and I have had ENOUGH — A mother had had ENOUGH of the mommy wars.
  • Motherhood vs. Feminism — Doula Julia at juliamannes.com encourages feminists to embrace the real needs and cycles and strengths of women.
  • There Is No Universal Truth When It Comes To Parenting — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how parenting looks around the world and why there is no universal parenting philosophy.
  • Attachment Parenting Assumptions — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings argues that attachment parenting is not just for the affluent middle-classes, and that as parents we all need to stop worrying about our differences and start supporting each other.
  • Thoughts on Time Magazine, Supporting ALL Mamas, and Advocating for the Motherless — Time Magazine led That Mama Gretchen to think about her calling as a mother and how adoption will play an important role in growing her family.
  • Attachment Parenting: the Renewed Face of Feminism — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children embraces her inner feminist as she examines how the principles of attachment parenting support the equal treatment of all.
  • What a Mom Wants! — Clancy Harrison from Healthy Baby Beans writes about how women need to support each other in their different paths to get to the same destination.
  • Attachment Parenting: What One Family Wants You To Know — Jennifer, Kris, 4 year old Owen and 2 year old Sydney share the realities of attachment parenting, and how very different it looks than the media's portrayal.
  • We ALL Are Mom Enough — Amy W. of Amy Willa: Me, Mothering, and Making It All Work thinks that all mothers should walk together through parenthood and explores her feelings in prose.
  • A Typical Day Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares what a typical day with her attached family looks like...all in the hopes to shed light on what Attachment Parenting is, what it's not and that it's unique within each family!
  • The Proof is in the (organic, all-natural) Pudding — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World talks about how, contrary to what the critics say, the proof that attachment parenting works in visible in the children who are parented that way.
  • I am mom and I have had ENOUGH A mother had had ENOUGH of the mommy wars.
  • Time Magazine & Mommy Wars: Enough! What Really Matters? — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter encourages moms to stop fighting with each other, and start alongside each other.
  • Attachment parenting is about respect — Lauren at Hobo Mama breaks down what attachment parenting means to her to its simplest level.
  • I am an AP mom, regardless... — Jorje ponders how she has been an Attachment Parenting mom regardless of outside circumstances at Momma Jorje.
  • The first rule of Attachment Parenting is: You Do Not Talk about Attachment Parenting — Emily discusses, with tongue aqnd cheek, how tapping into our more primal selves actually brings us closer to who we are rather than who we think we should be.
  • Mom, I am. — Amy at Anktangle discusses how Attachment Parenting is a natural extension of who she is, and she explains the ways her parenting approach follows the "live and let live" philosophy, similar to her beliefs about many other areas of life.
  • I Breastfeed My Toddler for the Nutritional Benefits — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why 'extended' breastfeeding is not extreme and how she is still nursing her toddler for the nutritional benefits.

17 comments:

  1. GREAT post! I've been breastfeeding for 7 months now and I honestly can't imagine stopping any time soon. I wonder when my friends will start to think I'm weird...

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    1. I can definitely say that I started getting odd looks after Jess turned one... lets hope your friends are better informed than mine were ;)

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  2. I love the breakdown of the nutrients toddlers get from breastmilk. I know that Kieran was getting SO much of his nutrition from me into his second year (and beyond).

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    1. Best thing about it (which I should have mentioned) is that it takes SO much pressure off of your toddler eating properly, because we all know how sporadically toddlers eat... Jess has gone for days only eating peas before :/

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your post. It was so informative! I breastfed my daughter until she was 18 months (or more realistically until my milk dried up.) I love all the benefits of breastfeeding. It's such a gift to give. Formula has its place, I have used it, mostly to mix with her cereal, but nothing can beat breast milk. I am now going to read your link on dairy because I have been hearing conflicting information about cow's milk.

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    1. I totally agree, formula has its place but nothing can beat breastmilk :)

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  4. I think that it is wonderful that your SA mamas are blissfully unaware of the idiot nature of our US mommy wars. Seriously. The facts and research you present here are great. I actually think a lot of people do not realize the mechanics of “eating” and digesting. This stuck out for me as something I KNOW most parents are clueless about. “It is therefore futile to give a child younger than 2.5 years a complex carbohydrate or complex protein to eat, carbohydrates and proteins need adequate chewing in order to be digested and if not chewed properly, the stomach does not secrete enough acid and then food passes through the gut barely digested causing all sorts of tummy trouble. Ever given your child peas for supper only to change his nappy the next day and find them totally undigested? Peas are one of the most carbohydrate rich vegetables, and need adequate chewing.”

    Thanks for being a part of this Carnival! Your post will be eye opening for many I’m sure!

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    1. Thanks for hosting Jennifer! :)

      Its scary how clueless most people are when it comes to nutrition :/

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  5. After reading this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_formula I'm relieved that it was easy to breastfeed my son. It just felt right for me to follow his lead because he was the hungry/thirsty one and I knew how to wait.
    I carried him in a sling for a lot of time so he just fed when he needed to until he was 2 and a bit and I just lived my life normally, he never felt like a hindrance to my previous life. The world didn't stop because my son got on.
    I was told that I was making a rod for my own back, but I felt like I was making a rod of 'you're loved' support for his back.
    He moved into his own room when he was 7 but came for morning cuddles until he was 11. He's respectful, kind and also sometimes highly emotional and reactive, (13 year old) and often I'm less than perfect, but I try to be kind to myself about it and we're happy.
    Ultimately I think it's about connection. We all seek connection because it keeps us safe. Perhaps it should be called Connection Parenting and I think it would be less intimidating and maybe not have the media stigma of needy attached selfish children or needy attached parents who can't let go.
    I know absolutely fantastic parents who didn't babywear, breastfeed or cosleep for different reasons and their children are loved and respected and very happy because the parents connected with their children and cared.
    Parenting can be about doing what comes biologically naturally and following the needs of the child whatever your values or circumstances (and fumbling your way down the path sometimes). However, each family is different and has different needs or approaches to balance everything.
    We can all learn to listen to needs including the needs of a mother who might choose a different path from ours.

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    1. I agree, attachment parenting came naturally to me too... in fact Jesse was a couple of months old before I had even heard the term. Im convinced our lives are made easier by the way in which we parent, but each to their own, and we should each do what works for us. As I often say, I am the best mother for Jesse, but so is any (most) mothers for their child.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

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  6. There are SO many benefits to nursing - emotional, nurtitional, immunological, physical,...I hate when I hear someone say that the "ONLY" reason someone is still breastfeeding is one thing or another. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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    1. Thanks for hosting Mandy!

      I agree, breastfeeding is fantastic all-round :)

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  7. I love the idea behind the I Am Mom! Enough! Carnival. I am still breastfeeding my 22-month old but was very turned off at the magazine's obvious attention-seeking choice of photo and the title. Our society is always pitting women again women so it is wonderful when women work together! I will definitely check out the other blog posts and will be back to read your other posts as well. All the best!

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    1. I loved being a part of this carnival :)
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Great article. Both my first two children i breastfed for three years each and i am currently breastfeeding my 14mth old little cherub. Am so happy i have had to the opportunity to give this to my children. There are so many benefits. I have met with random controversy over this period of time, but my little ones come first and i have a loving husband and supportive family (family is just used to it now!!) There needs to be more independant articles like this that get out to the wider public. Wouldn't have it any other way. Just wish more women felt empowered to follow this path if it is their choice.

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  9. Great article. Both my first two children i breastfed for three years each and i am currently breastfeeding my 14mth old little cherub. Am so happy i have had to the opportunity to give this to my children. There are so many benefits. I have met with random controversy over this period of time, but my little ones come first and i have a loving husband and supportive family (family is just used to it now!!) There needs to be more independant articles like this that get out to the wider public. Wouldn't have it any other way. Just wish more women felt empowered to follow this path if it is their choice.

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    1. I expect my family will only be used to seeing me breastfeed my toddler when I have a second ;) I think you are right that more woman would choose to do this, if educated and empowered!

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